Can rural charm in Idaho power economic engine?

Right now, Canyon County's scenic byway consists of a state-approved route, some signs and a lot of big ideas.

But within a year, proponents hope to forge a plan to develop those 53 miles into a tourist-tempting economic engine for Canyon communities.

They kicked off that process last week with a brainstorming session that attracted some 28 people, including local government leaders, farmers, a winemaker, wildlife managers, a developer, a real estate agent and a state senator. Other area residents are invited to pitch ideas and help with the yearlong task of developing a corridor-management plan for the Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway.

It's Idaho's 28th official byway but the first to center on agriculture as a key attraction, committee chairwoman Lyndell Jackson said. Starting and ending at the Snake River along the county's western line, the route runs from Walter's Ferry to the Nyssa, Ore., bridge. Along the way, travelers pass ancient rock art, historic small towns, wineries, orchards and a succession of sweeping pastoral vistas.

Preserving those views and the farmland within them was a priority for many at Wednesday's gathering.

"We're one of the most agronomic counties in the state," winemaker and agriculture consultant Ron Bitner said. "We grow 100 different crops here."

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